Part of “Old Info And News”
Highlight: “Elizabeth Mitchell’s layered performance“
Juliet flashes back to when she was the object of the head Other’s unrequited love, but then she obeys his orders to stop the freighter folks’ mission
CRUSHED After Juliet turned Ben down, he arranged for her lover’s death
By Jeff Jensen
This is the time in the ”Lost” season when we begin to feel the first tingle of antsy-pants impatience — where a simmering feeling blossoms into full awareness that nothing has really happened since the exciting, season-launching events of the premiere. Consider last year. As we entered the sixth episode, the Jack-Kate-Sawyer Hydra story line had advanced by baby steps, while back on the beach, Smokey had just bashed Mr. Eko to death. Not exactly a fruitful yield on a five-hour investment. For certain, this fourth season of Lost has been more interesting (thank you, flash-forwards) and focused (thank you, freighter folk and plot-driving end date), but let’s be honest: Since the introduction of the freighter folk in episode 2, the Island-set drama has been stuck in neutral. And so, at the risk of sounding downright ungrateful following last week’s instant-classic Desmond outing, I approached ”The Other Woman,” last night’s Juliet-centric affair, itchy for some action. After three weeks of set-ups, I wanted an episode with at least a few payoffs.
Well, be careful what you privately wish for. The best thing I can say about ”The Other Woman” is that it tried hard to deliver the goods I wanted — maybe too hard. The whole thing felt forced to me — the sudden transformation of Charlotte and Faraday into Mission: Impossible secret agents; the overheated melodrama of Juliet’s flashback; the groaningly contrived kiss between Jack and Juliet (Juliack?); the cliché ticking-clock climax in which catastrophe is averted with a proverbial second to spare. The story was kinda all over the place, as if trying to find something, anything to hook us — and fortunately, it managed to nab me with its Ben and Locke scenes (always killer, in my opinion) and the über-Other’s mythology-expanding claim that the Big Bad behind the freighter (and maybe all of Lost) is none other than Penelope’s father, Charles Widmore. It was almost enough to salvage the first truly subpar episode of the season. Some thoughts:
A Tempest by any other name (part 1)
”The Other Woman” gave us a new Dharma facility, a power plant known as the Tempest. Much can be said about the name assigned to this station — beginning with this piece of insight, offered by reader Keith Stuart, who was inspired to do some pre-broadcast prep after reading about the Tempest in my Doc Jensen column on Thursday. Stuart reminds us that The Tempest is, of course, a famous play by William Shakespeare and that Lost seems to have much in common with the Bard’s final masterwork: ”It is a comment on the Renaissance pastoral genre, in which the natural environment is often characterized as a restorative, magical force. In the play, the troubled royals are washed up on a strange island and find that they must grapple with the social and political problems of their normal lives, but within a strange new context of magic and disorientation. Sound familiar?” Sure does! Keith thinks of Ben as Prospero, ”the magician at the center of the island’s seductive madness,” though he declines to say who’s the equivalent of Prospero’s imprisoned fairy, Ariel. Maybe he thought making a connection to Juliet was too obvious. Still, thank you, Doc Stuart, for doing all this heavy lifting for me/us.
Omniscient Ben strikes again!
The plot kicked in when Juliet encountered an old foil in the jungle: Harper, the Others’ psychotherapist (”it’s very stressful being an Other,” Juliet later explained to Jack) and wife to Juliet’s old Other lover, Goodwin. Harper — whose entrance and exit was accompanied by a choir of creepy jungle whispers (long time, no talk!) — had an urgent message from Ben. He wanted Juliet to track down and kill Faraday and Charlotte before they completed their mission of unleashing the deadly chemicals housed inside the Tempest. By episode’s end, we learned Charlotte and Faraday were actually conspiring to do the exact opposite: Their mission all along was to neutralize the chemical stockpile in order to prevent Ben from pulling another Purge. Ben’s mobilization of Harper raises many questions, not the least of which is ”Where are the rest of the Others hiding?” It also suggests that either Ben can telepathically communicate with his people, or the surviving Others are executing orders Ben gave them prior to the events of last year’s season finale, orders undoubtedly based on insight supplied by his freighter spy. As Ben told Locke, ”I always have a plan.”
A Good(win) man is hard to find
I was really looking forward to this flashback. The first two peeks into Juliet’s past — ”Not in Portland” and ”One of Us” — were all-time keepers, in my book, and I thought they still left plenty to be explored, particularly the reluctant Other’s romantic relationship with Goodwin and her turbulent rapport with Ben. But I was a little let down by what we got. I wasn’t fond of the performance by Andrea Roth as Harper, nor was I fond of the lines written for her; she came off as too arch and unreal. I didn’t like the revelation that the Juliet-Goodwin romance was an adulterous affair; it was a needless, underdeveloped twist that rendered Goodwin murky instead of complicated. And it ultimately didn’t tell me anything about Juliet that previous flashbacks — and Elizabeth Mitchell’s layered performance — didn’t already establish or suggest. That said, I totally dug Ben’s creepy loverboy act, culminating with the revelation that he had Goodwin infiltrate the Tailies in the hope that he’d get killed and thus be eliminated as a rival for Juliet’s affections. I loved the part where Ben took Juliet to Goodwin’s corpse, told her ”You’re mine!” then graciously allowed her to grieve by saying, with apparent sincerity, ”Take as much time as you need.” If I haven’t said so before, Michael Emerson is just genius in this role.
See? They haven’t forgotten the kids!
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing reference to abducted Tailie kids Zack and Emma during the scene in which Juliet and Ben ”enjoyed” a ”romantic” ham dinner together. Ben commended Juliet on her care for the kids. But it was the disclosure that they were kidnapped strictly because they were ”on the list” that struck me. I used to have a theory that the Others swiped kids either because of their fertility problem or because kids tend to develop a magical, powerful rapport with the Island that isn’t easily controllable (see: Walt) and the Others know that and try to manage that lest it become a problem. But if we are to believe Ben, it was merely a matter of faith — faith in Jacob’s will, as revealed by the holy writ of the list.
The (ugh) kiss
I liked everything that led up to it. I liked how Juliet pulled this frustrating episode together with her final speech to Jack. In the end, this was really a story about Ben and the lengths he will go to protect himself and the Island from his enemies. And the bad news for Juliet is that those extreme lengths might include manipulating her any way Ben sees fit, even leveraging her feelings for Jack, because after all, in Ben’s mind, she belongs to him. If only Juliet had walked away after this speech, everything would have been okay. But no: Jack had to kiss her. Part of me can believe it: Juliet represents exactly the kind of Girl That Needs Rescuing that totally gets Doc Messiah hot — and ultimately leaves him burned. Look, I can buy the Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle; this dynamic makes sense to me. But adding a fourth party — even in the form of Juliet, a character I like very much — just doesn’t work for me. I just don’t think Jack would complicate his life with that kind of thing — not right now. It also seems to me that the last thing Juliet needs is more man trouble. Hasn’t she learned anything from her backstory? Doesn’t she know it never ends well for ”the other woman”?